If any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar. If any man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool.”
― Abraham Lincoln
Fast forward a century and a half, and American leaders, foolish as ever, have taken their fear of people to unprecedented levels by spitting in labor's face and drum-beating for yet another war. In Abe's day, the tycoons only had the Pinkerton Agency to crush the oppressed. Now we have the N.S.A,, the C.I.A, the D.E.A., the T.S.A., the FISA Court, Homeland Security fusion centers, militarized urban police forces and probably even more initialized agencies we never heard of, lurking undetected deep within the bowels of the national surveillance state.
Today, more than ever, it is easy for politicians to demonize poor people in general and poor working people in particular. The Party of Lincoln openly telegraphs its contempt for labor, and the Democrats, in their craven allegiance to Wall Street, are coming in a close second by dint of their faint words and deafening inaction.
As I noted in my response to a rather tepid Paul Krugman column in honor of Labor Day (a variation on his Republican misanthropy theme),
Unfortunately, the anti-labor philosophy of the GOP doesn't mean the Democrats are pro-labor. Not by a long shot. Last spring, when Senator Amy Klobuchar bucked the trend and held a hearing on the crisis of chronic unemployment, only five of her colleagues bothered to show up. As Gore Vidal observed, there is only one political party in this country, and it has two right wings.
But at long last, the workers of America are beginning to unite, taking to the streets and the picket lines. Wildcat-striking fast food workers are demanding $15 an hour. Chicago teachers and students are striking back against the closure of scores of public schools and firings of thousands of teachers to make room for the for-profit charters and low paid non-unionized staff.
The miserly $9/hour minimum wage proposed by the president is too little, too late, and too insulting. If he chose to, he could sign an executive order today, raising the wages of millions of underpaid employees of federal contractors. But his big kiss to the workers this Labor Day was a mild thaw of his wage freeze of those directly employed by the federal government. I guess his whopping 1% hike is meant take away the pain of furloughed workers victimized by the utterly gratuitous, bipartisan Sequester.
So we can't rely on our politicians, who are bought and paid for by their tax-averse cronies and donors. The labor movement has always derived its strength from direct action rather than at the ballot box.
The pols have their war, and we have ours.
And since today is the day we are supposed to honor and glorify the working people of America, I am going to cut this post short, forget about doing my due diligence by adding yet another slew of depressing links and stats, and honor myself by taking the rest of the day off from reading and writing about war, strife, misery and want.
So, here's to the hard-working, non-rentier people out there, slogging along, getting a paycheck, an unemployment check, a pension check, or no check at all.
Meanwhile, Forbes -- probably sensitive about its constant glorification of the filthy rich plutocracy and the Forbes 400 in its glossy pages -- last year published a list of ten of the best working stiff flics of all time. See if any of your favorites are included. Personally, I think I will savor The Grapes of Wrath one more time, for old times' sake. What better way to spend my day off from contemporary misery, strife and want than to watch one of the great artistic classics of the genre.